VAN ANDEL EDUCATION INSTITUTE Exceeding Standards Van Andel Institute Graduate School students learn to think and act like scientists through the program’s unique curriculum.
Van Andel Institute Graduate School Receives Accreditation Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) has received institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for its Ph.D. program in cell, molecular and genetic biology of human disease. The innovative inquiry-based curriculum of VAIGS combines biomedical and translational research with professional mentorship by the scientists of Van Andel Research Institute, with further advice and evaluation from faculty members at other research institutes and universities. “The accreditation represents affirmation by the larger academic community that we meet their standards and expectations,” said Dr. Steven Triezenberg, President and Dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School. “It reinforces that the innovative and creative way we developed this program is appropriate.” VAIGS focuses on developing students to become scientists and research leaders early in their career by teaching them to think and act like scientists. The problembased curriculum developed by VAIGS is unique; to Dr. Triezenberg’s knowledge, no other program like this one currently exists. VAIGS graduate students work alongside experienced researchers and receive valuable one-on-one training. On average, only one graduate student is placed into each lab. The program is still relatively small, and that’s by design. “We don’t strive to be the largest, but to be among the best,” said Triezenberg. Currently twenty-two students are enrolled at VAIGS and another six are expected to be accepted into next year’s incoming class. “I want to commend the students who put their confidence and faith in us when they signed up for a graduate program that wasn’t tested,” Triezenberg said. The first students joined VAIGS’s inaugural class in 2007. Last year, two of those students graduated with Ph.D. degrees and accepted postdoctoral positions at first-rate university labs. “I was warned before I accepted a position at VAIGS that I was taking a risk if I chose to attend an unaccredited institute for my graduate work, especially one so distinctly different from most other programs,” said Laura Westrate, VAIGS student who joined the program during its second year of existence and graduated in December 2013. “However, after interviewing at Van Andel Institute I felt the risk seemed minimal. The training program is uniquely designed to effectively transition students to scientists.” The Higher Learning Commission is responsible for accrediting degree-granting institutions of higher education, and is part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. 13